Egypt’s European Spying: Western Security Cooperation with Al-Sisi’s Regime Denounced

Written by | Tuesday, July 21st, 2020

Egypt’s secret service has kept an eye on critics abroad in an attempt to silence criticism, using the guise of national security. Western states like Germany and others are accused of complicity since they are involved in security cooperation and training with the security apparatus in the north African country, which does not have a good reputation abroad. Activities of dissidents and all those who dare to criticize the government of Abdelfattah al-Sisi – whether they live inside Egypt or reside in foreign countries – are subject to close monitoring and regular pressure by government officials, diplomats and agents of the state. Although Egypt’s intelligence services have been involved in foreign operations for decades, their activities have been boosted in the wake of the 2013 coup against the country’s first democratically elected president Mohammed Morsi who was subsequently arrested and replaced by General Sisi as its leader.
Hence, in recent years, many activists, writers and journalists who have been targeted by Sisi’s régime have found a refuge in the German capital Berlin. For them, it came as no surprise that the German Interior Ministry announced recently that it had caught an alleged spy – an Egyptian-born German citizen – who worked in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s press office. “There are indications that Egyptian services are trying to recruit Egyptians living in Germany for intelligence purposes,” says a report detailing the case. Ilyas Saliba, researcher at the Global Public Policy Institute (GPPi) in Berlin adds to this that “with more Egyptian dissidents and critics of the Al-Sissi regime arriving in Europe since the military coup, it seems that the Egyptian government has stepped up their surveillance and disinformation efforts in order to counter these critical voices from abroad.”
However, the long shadow of Cairo’s security apparatus has also cast a chill on the other side of the Atlantic, when Egyptian Immigration Minister Nabila Makram last year very openly revealed how her government planned to treat dissidents. During a private event in the Canadian city Toronto, Makram posed a direct question to her audience: “Anyone who says something about our country – what happens to them?” Gesturing towards her neck, she had a quick answer: “We cut.” For critics, her message could not have been more clear: Remember the fate of Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi, who was brutally killed in October 2018 by a team of Saudi agents at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
But ongoing security cooperation between Western countries and Egypt stops short of endorsing – and perhaps even emboldening – the Egypt’s security apparatus‘ increasingly assertive activities abroad. For example, Germany approved arms transfers valued at €290 million earlier this year and provided counterterrorism training for some of Egypt’s most notorious security bodies, while, shockingly, Trump has even called Sisi his “favorite dictator”. Here, Saliba urges Western governments to “halt the security cooperation with Egyptian security forces guilty of systematic human rights abuses, such as torture and wrongful imprisonments, and adhere to the European Parliament’s resolutions to cease weapons exports to Egypt.”

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